I was making pasta, and I noticed the pasta boiling over. I thought about it some more, and I realized I had no idea why this was happening. When the lid is on, the foam rises. When the lid is off, the foam dies back. Clearly there's some surfactant at work allowing bubbles to form, and the bubbles are mostly full of steam. If you remove the lid, they cool and condense down to a tiny size. This article is honestly just not specific enough. Why is the starch important?(It also happens with potatoes) How does a polysaccharide, a hydrophilic molecule, become a surfactant(if indeed it does)? Is it phospholipids from the cells that became pasta? Do starch molecules form a polymer and trap steam underneath like a balloon? Is it some kind of hybrid where bubbles are stabilized by viscosity? What's going on here?
This question on seasoned advice tries to tackle it but gets surface tension wrong(I think) so that makes me a little wary of it. Surfactants like soap reduce the surface tension, allowing bubbles to form by letting water molecules spread out into thin films. They also keep your alveoli in your lungs from collapsing. If starches increased the surface tension, wouldn't that reduce the likelihood of forming bubbles by increasing the energetic penalty? High surface tension materials act like mercury.
This answer is all over the internet but doesn't make any sense to me. You need less surface tension for bubbles, surely?
If it's just phospholipids acting as detergent, could I 'boil over' pasta in cold water with a whisk? (I tried this, you can't.)
I considered putting this on seasoned advice, but I'm not interested in how to prevent boil-over(or really any practical results), and the supplied answer there lacks scientific rigor.